Motivational interviewing for third party benefit: navigating the ethical use of influence

Alison Bard, David Main, Anne Haase, Emma Roe, Becky Whay, Kristen Reyher

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paperpeer-review


Motivational Interviewing (MI) is employed in myriad contexts, stretching beyond its foundations in addiction treatment to those such as offender rehabilitation, environmental inspection and educational psychology. One major shift as these contexts have broadened has been the use of the methodology to enhance the welfare of a third party, such as a child or an animal, in triadic interactions involving an advisor, care-giver and dependent. Here, the care-giver’s behaviour engenders specific consequences for the dependent given their position of responsibility. However, the care-giver has needs that must also be protected, which may - or may not - be in conflict with meeting those of the third party. This interaction therefore demands a complex assessment by the advisor: can one maintain the Spirit of MI between advisor and client whilst promoting change in the interests of a third party? What ethical considerations are pertinent to this triadic interaction, and how should they be navigated by MI professionals?
At the University of Bristol, these questions hold particular weight in our research considering the applicability of MI to the veterinary profession. Using a mixed-methods approach, our exploration of this topic has focused on (i) establishing existing communication strategies employed between veterinarians and farmers in the dairy sector, (ii) creating context-specific MI training for cattle veterinarians and (iii) trialing this training to veterinary practices (veterinarians n=60). The intervention’s goal is to enhance veterinary communication and improve the health and welfare of a third party—the dairy cow—as the subject and beneficiary of any decision on management change made by a farmer. Under what circumstances, and with what justifications, could this be acceptable?
Through presentation of our unique research context, we hope to stimulate discussion and exploration of the pertinent ethical questions that stem from this unusual triadic interaction and the use of MI.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventInternational Conference on Motivational Interviewing - Philadelphia, United States
Duration: 18 Jun 201721 Jun 2017


ConferenceInternational Conference on Motivational Interviewing
CountryUnited States
Internet address

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